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President’s Project – Appalachian Wildlife Center

In Bell County in the Mountain Laurel District of The Garden Club of Kentucky there is a 12,000-acre tract of land that is being developed for an elk preserve by The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation. This preserve, which will be developed on abandoned coal strip mine property, will have a visitor’s center, small lake, restaurant, petting zoo and elk viewing tours as well as historical displays of the area’s mining on this land. These acres of old strip mine property that surround the visitor’s center will be reclaimed and planted to create the prairie necessary for the elk. This area is isolated and free from pesticide overspray. Several rare migratory birds have been sighted in the preserve that depend on feeding from our native seeds and berries along their journey. There are bear, fox, bobcats and other small mammals living on the property.

For my special project, our garden club members will collaborate with The Appalachian Wildlife Center to develop several acres of native habitat near the visitor’s center. We would provide seed and help develop plans for fields of native wildflowers and grasses that would provide food and shelter for many birds, small mammals, insects and other creatures.

This area and its surrounds would need to include a covered outdoor classroom and walking trails for students and other visitors to the preserve.

I feel that my project would be an educational tool that would help all visitors learn how important native plants are to the protection and continuation of all native life around us.

Garden Tips – Winter Work

Outside in the Garden

  • Neaten up the garden and edge beds.
  • Rake soil and scatter collected seeds.
  • Make notes as to plants to replace and areas to fill in this spring.
  • Place pines and other evergreens prunings (except holly that dries prickly) on beds to protect plants and give a cleaner look.
  • If fully dormant and in the wrong place, roses may be transplanted through January, if the ground is not wet or frozen and temperature above 32 degrees. Cut canes to 3-4 feet, pre-dig the new site, plant and mound 8-12 inches around the base. Cut back rose canes to prevent whipping, then mulch.

Houseplants

Fiddle Leaf Fig is a great architectural addition to any style home. The tropical plant requires little attention, loves our warm homes, bright light, water when the top layer of soil is dry, and fed (10-4-6) during the growing season (March through October). It is vulnerable to the usual houseplant pests. At first sign, wipe the waxy leaves with1/2 teaspoon to 1-gallon water mix, and to clean the leaves occasionally. Fertilize miniature roses in bloom monthly with 20-20-20.

Trees and Shrubs

Location! Trees and shrubs grow. Take into consideration the maximum height and width when planting. Always read the planting label for dimensions as well as other environmental requirements. Do not plant anything wider than the strip between the sidewalk and street, nor plants under power lines that will reach 15 feet tall. Consider line-of-sight when planting either side of the drive and the corner. Plant 10-15 feet from the street depending on the maintained or mature size of the plants.

In winter, the soil is often workable enough to pull or dig seedlings and saplings under trees and shrubs. Repot or transplant useful ones, winter over by mulching with leaves and securing with bird netting. In the spring, share with friends.

In the Arboretum: The Beauty of Bark

The Arboretum is bursting when bloom from spring through fall, but have you ever looked at the color and texture of the Arboretum in the winter? To most, the winter garden is dreary and lacking all color, but a closer look will prove otherwise. Really look at a tree’s bark. It is the tree’s outer protection layer. It also is a thing of beauty in and of itself. Each tree has its own distinctive silhouette and bark.

  • The ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) row by the pergola has the most identifiable bark accented spurs on its branches.
  • The Kentucky Coffee Tree, our Heritage Tree, is another readily recognizable one by its dark gray, fissured scaly surface and narrow ridges. Its botanical name ‘Gymnocladus dioicus’ meaning ‘naked branch’ describes it thick twig-less branches. The winter buds are minute, but not its pods, which measure 6-10 inches with 6-9 dime-sized seed.
  • The Sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis) has white bark cannot be missed even in the summer. Its lower trunk is splotchy shades of gray and tan, but the upper is smooth snowy-white that highly contrasts against the winter sky and its surrounding dark-barked neighbors. As stunning as it is, it is not a tree for small places as it can easily reach 150 feet.
  • And, Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). The Kentucky big tree champion grows to the left of the Wallis House front drive. This species is found in most of Kentucky’s 120 counties. Its bark is noted its the shallow fissure and smooth ridges that sometimes having a striped appearance. Other oaks have a similar striping, but only the red oak stripes run the length of the trunk.

These are just a few of the wonderful winter trees in the Arboretum. Come visit on your own, or for a group tour of the Arboretum: call 859-987-6158 and leave a message. Wallis House is available to rent for special events and meetings.

Garden Tips – November

 “To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” ~ Alfred Austin, English poet.

We are in that awkward transition time of year when it is often too early and too late to do chores. Take one day at a time and hope for the best. Generally, nature is forgiving.

  • Garden – Dig summer bulbs before the ground freezes. The moon phase this weekend makes it a good time to sow bachelor buttons, calendula, nicotiana, and sweet alyssum.
  • Take advantage of end-of-the-season sales. For a quick and easy compost bin, connect pallets to form a three-sided box.
  • House plants – Check new houseplants and those recently returned from outdoors, for emerging insects. Draw water the night before using. Quart milk jugs make good watering cans. Start forcing poinsettia using nature light as it does not like artificial. Decorate a door by hanging a straw wreath to which has been added dried dill, valerian, rue(wear gloves when handling), and other materials from your yard. Do not hang wreaths that include berried branches on doors as they attract birds and a mess.
  • Trees – Wrap young tree trunks with tree guard(paper or other protective material) to create a shield from winter winds, freeze/thaw, and male deer rubbing their antlers against the trunk and branches. Piled branches around small trees will discourage deer from getting close to the trees.
  • Vegetables – When beds are leaned, place a thin layer of chopped leaves on top. Cover with black plastic or tarp that will block light and kill weeds over-winter. Fasten down with tent stakes, wood boards, or bricks to hold in place.
  • Pets – Protect pets on Halloween. Keep them inside or in a safe kennel. Secure chocolate in containers as it is lethal to dogs.

In the Arboretum – November

There are so many wonderful trees in the Arboretum, sometimes it is hard to see the trees for the ‘forest’. Among the wonderful trees that you will find in the Arboretum is Diospryros virginiana, aka ‘divine fruit’. It is one that you would not readily accept If your only contact with D. virginiana, (persimmon) was tasting the astringent fruit, or stepping on the messy fruit, it would be the last tree you would want to plant. It is all how you look at it.

In the fall, its foliage of gold, yellow, orange and purple foliage, simply glows. Its winter silhouette exposes alligator bark and picturesque branches, and apricot-colored fruit that will hang on through the winter or until the wildlife eat it.

Michael A. Dirr, “Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs”, says ‘it will not win a landscape beauty contest’, however, once established the long tap root ensures it will survive the worst of conditions and it will have a long life. Severed roots will regenerate, are good soil builders, enabling the tree to adapt to drought, flood, heat, shade, and wind, though it loves rich, organic soil, plenty of moisture and full sun.

Culture is simple. Avoid planting were fruit will drop on hard surface. The dense wood, member of the ebony family, resists and survives persimmon wilt a systematic disease and twig girdling insect. Simply rake fallen branches and leaves and burned the area under the tree.

When to eat the fruit? Most consider the astringent D. virginiana(American native) must go through a freeze to be edible. Guy Sternberg, author of “Native Trees of North America”, states that it is not temperature but the length of time that causes it to sweeten.

It is a wonderful apricot-tasting fruit that is a delight as fruit, the basis of bread, pudding, preserves and brandy. Sternberg considers it as the most diverse and useful tree in the landscape. It is an excellent wildlife wood, attracts two spectacular moths Regal and Swallow-tail Luna. While the dense black core-wood has many uses (shuttles and veneer), don’t build a child’s boat – it will sink due to its density.

October Things to do in Your Garden

  • Patron of Gardeners – October 2nd is is St Francis of Assisi Day, known for his love of animals and nature.
  • 15 Minute Gardening – Label garden hoses “Not Potable”, since the PVC stabilizer can leach into the water. Potable are available from garden stores and on-line.
  • Water Early and Deep – Always water early morning to let foliage dry off before the sun reaches the plant. Water beads will act as a magnifying glass, burning the foliage. Soil should be watered one inch a week or when the soil is dry more than the top inch.  To check the depth, use a spade to take a narrow plug. Slow water to allow for absorption and not run-off.
  • Wedding- Pull or dig weeds making sure all of the root system is removed.
  • Saving Seeds – Save seed from your favorite annuals except hybrid varieties that will not come true or are sterile. Seed packets marked F1, are hybrids.
  • Spacing Bulbs – For a naturalized planting of bulbs, determine the area to be planted, throw bulbs them over your back, and plant where they landed.
  • Caring for dried flowers – Use spray lacquer or hair spray on dried flower to prevent shattering and as a primer before spray painting. Revive cut hydrangeas by plunging them head-first into water, also stems if possible, for about an hour.
  • Trees and shrubs – Rake walnuts, sweet gum, buckeye and Kentucky Coffee(our Heritage Tree) seeds before mowing as they can dull mower blades and can be a dangerous projective. The Whitehaven Welcome Center will gladly receive your buckeye seeds and Coffee tree pods to share with visitors who enjoy receiving both.
  • Vegetables
    • Separate grocery-purchased garlic cloves that have sprouted, pot up, and snip new growth for cooking.
    • For fried green tomatoes, use only hard green ones without any blush. Those that show color tend to get too soft.
  • Fish Tank Fertilizer – Save water from cleaning the fish tank to fertilize the garden.

Autumn at the Arboretum

According to the calendar it is officially Autumn, though this year’s continuing heat shows Mother Nature is not willing to leave Summer just quite yet. From the Wallis Arboretum’s beginning in the 1850s, trees were selected for their uniqueness and their year-round beauty, so as we progress into true autumn, there will be a continuation of color throughout.

Maples, harbingers of autumn, normally are the first to show their true colors in the fall. The Arboretum maples include Black, Paperbark, Red, and Sugar; and Japanese maple “Bloodgood” and “Burgundy Lace”. The new foliage of the last is a deep red that changes color during the year and returns to deep red-purple in the fall.

Among the unique are gingkos, whose leaf imprints have been found in fossils that are 270 million years old. The lemon-yellow leaves hang on until all have turned and then drop within two to three days, leaving a bare tree surrounded by a yellow skirt on the ground.

Redbud displays a darker yellow, with the exception of “Forest Pansy” and “Oklahoma” whose leaves are deep purple.

Washington Hawthorn turns orange, scarlet, and purple each fall. Along with the  Serviceberry, which has red to orange foliage, these two native trees produces purple-black edible berries and retains through the winter for the birds to eat.

The oaks, whose botanical name “Quercus’ means ‘beautiful tree’, are  among the last to change color. The Pin Oak and the Northern Red Oak change to scarlet and ruby-red.

This is not a complete list of the Arboretum’s fall color collection of trees. Visit the Arboretum often to see the daily change of fall color. Visit on your own or for a group tour of the Arboretum: call 859-987-6158 and leave a message.

President’s Project – KY Highway Medians

Native Plants on Highway Medians and Public Space in KY

There have been some efforts made in Kentucky to plant small plots of native plants for our pollinators in Monarch Way Stations, in our state parks and on our highway right-of-way.

The Kentucky Transportation cabinet has approximately 200,000 acres of right-of- way. Of that, it maintains about 100,000 acres with mowing, spraying, re-seeding, etc. In addition, our counties maintain other roads that contain additional acreage that are maintained.

Our members are asked to work with local government agencies to develop areas that are planted with native plants. This will increase the native plants on our highway properties and help eliminate invasive species that threaten the native plants.

See President’s Award #2

Garden Tips for September

  • Deep water plants in preparation for winter. Despite what it seems, plants continue to grow their roots even during the coldest winter.
  • 15 Minute gardening – Write out a weekly plan of what needs to be done and divide into daily chores. Make a list of tools and supplies, adding what is needed to the shopping list. Having all supplies at hand, saves time and frustration.
  • Garden – While the soil is soft, pull weeds before they go to seed. Grab them at soil level and roll you hand away from the weed. It is easier and more root comes out than pulling straight up.
    • Pull dried daylily stems.
    • Pot up spring bulbs in soil to force for holiday bloom.
    • Layer daffodil, tulip and top with crocus and muscari.
    • Sow hardy annuals and transplant tender biennials.
  • Lawn – Remove thatch. Seed areas that need repair before mid- to late month. Check lawnmower blades for sharpness. The more turgid the leaf blades, the duller they will make the mower blades.
  • Trees – Select locations for fall tree planting in October. Consider power lines location.
    • Plant shrubs (mature size up to 10 feet) 10 feet from the power line. Magnolia soulangeana “Ann” is a small shrub that has bloomed all summer.
    •  Small trees(mature size under 30 feet) plant at least 15 feet from power lines.
    • Medium trees (30-50 feet) plant 35 feet away
    • tall trees, at least 45 feet.
  • Prune crape myrtle whose flowers have gone to seed and cut suckers from the base of the tree. Wait to trim trees that have sent out new growth thinking it is mid-summer, until they go dormant. Pick of fallen fruit to avoiding tripping or creating projectiles when mowing.
  • Vegetable – Work organic matter into vacant spaces: compost, aged manure, rotted straw or chopped leaves. Work 10-10-10 granular fertilizer into the soil and plant leaf lettuce, radish, spinach and turnip greens until mid-month. Reduce growth of perennial herbs by not fertilizing, so that fertilizer forced new-growth is not killed by frost.

In the Arboretum: Champion Acorns

In his poem, “Trees”, Joyce Kilmer said, “Only God can create a tree…” For one of the finest old tree collections in Central Kentucky, visit the Wallis Arboretum. Many are over 100 years, including the recently declared Kentucky Champion Northern Red Oak. It is over 96 feet tall, its circumference 180 feet, measured at 4.5 feet from the ground and one of the old trees that dominate the front yard. It is one of 11 National Register of Big Trees in Kentucky.

Mrs. Wallis was known for wise choices in selection of only the best trees to plant, including the Northern Red Oak. It is the most popular of the oaks for the home landscape for its beautiful shape and spring foliage of greenish-red foliage that turns a dark red in the fall. It is also known for its rapid growth, strong wood, and resistance to fungi and insects as it contains tannic acid. It tolerates urban pollution and drought due to its deep tap root.

Oaks have been a part of our culture for centuries. Linnaeus listed red oak as only one of five of the 600 species. Oaks have been a source of ship and structure lumber, furniture, and barrels for whiskey and other spirits. Even the galls are ground for a type of manuscript ink.

This fall, Oakland Farms and The Garden Club of Kentucky are collecting the Red Oak’s acorns to propagate seedlings of the champion. Unlike many tree seeds, Red Oak’s acorns take two years to mature. It is hoped that seedlings of the champion will be available in the future.

The Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street, Paris, is open to the public year-round without charge.